December 16

I’ll be seeing it again on Saturday, but I wanted to get a couple of brief spoiler-free thoughts down.

I don’t think it’s as good a movie as Episode 7, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.

This movie is a different kind of Star Wars movie from the word ‘Go’ and it carries that difference all the way through to the end.

I’ve already heard some kvetching that the characters are flat with no growth, and I disagree insofar as it comes to our two principal protagonists. There is growth in both of them. As for the remainder of the ‘good guys,’ they’re stock characters for a war film. They’re jobbers. There isn’t a lot of growth there, but this is an ensemble movie in the way that Ocean’s 11 is an ensemble movie. There’s a little time for character development but not everyone gets a complete arc.

This is the first Star Wars movie that felt like it understood war and armed rebellion. In the past Star Wars has mostly been about machine combat. There are stormtroopers here and there, and rebel soldiers, but the foot soldiers exist to be slaughtered to show how powerful the machines are. There’s a little of that here, but there’s also the sense, for the first time, that the rebel soldiers are fighting for their lives against a nearly-unbeatable foe. I think that’s desperately important.

The galaxy isn’t just Jedi and smugglers and star pilots and cantina-scum. At the heart of it all is people, and when people choose to fight, there’s going to be infighting. There’s going to be collateral damage, and there are going to be visceral moments where the combat is bloody and close and painful.

So how well do they tie this movie into the original, A New Hope? Remarkably well, I would say. There are enough cameos and bit part hooks to place us back into the galaxy on the brink of civil war, but it also manages to tie up its loose ends. Nothing fails to make sense. Things that happen are tied up in such a way that there would be no need to mention them in Episode 4.

This is a prequel done right. If this had been the way the Clone Wars had been depicted in the film version, and a better story told, we wouldn’t be talking about the awful prequel trilogy to this day. We’d instead be talking about the dark turn Star Wars had taken. And sure, that’s not to everybody’s liking. Some people want philosophical battles between space monks with laser swords.

If you’re one of those people this movie is definitely not for you. However, if you’re the sort of person who would run a Star Wars tabletop RPG game and exclude certain character types in order to tell a different story in the universe, this movie will feel like home.

I definitely give it a recommendation and I look forward to seeing it again in a few days to catch bits I may have missed this go-round.